Upstate’s Project ECHO serves up special covid sessions to more than 2000 area health care providers
As COVID zoomed into New York, officials at Upstate Medical University were looking at ways to assist communities and other medical professionals with time-sensitive knowledge about issues related to the pandemic.
That’s when Upstate’s ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) program was called into action. Upstate launched Project Echo in 2018 and has offered more than 100 sessions on variety of issues, including pediatrics, geriatrics, endocrinology and toxicology.
Project ECHO uses Zoom technology to create the group video call. Attendees can participate on camera or just using audio and may submit questions via computer microphone or by typing them into a chat box. The software has proven easy to use and its various participation options have been helpful for people in different working or environmental situations.
Project ECHO didn’t really change because of COVID as it was already a way to connect Upstate experts with those beyond campus. But because the technology and format already existed and was in use prior to the pandemic, it was ready to educate and inform immediately.
In total more than 2,000 participants joined a session some aspect of COVID since 2020.
One of the earliest COVD-focused sessions occurred in mid- March shortly after many of the businesses and other institutions shut down. It featured Stephen Thomas, MD, Upstate’s division chief of infectious disease and was attended by at about 100 medical professionals from across 10 New York state counties and beyond. They included staff from multiple county health departments, general physicians and pediatricians, emergency room personnel, social workers and others including an EMT and a flight nurse. Thomas provided a 40-minute presentation about COVID-19 followed by questions from attendees.
“I’m sure we could have spent three more hours sitting there,” said Dierdre Keefe, manager of Project Echo said. “We really touched on a lot of different areas.”
The next session was conducted by Jana Shaw, MD, MPH, MS, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases at Upstate. Shaw has previously conducted Project ECHO sessions before and this ECHO session was in place of the Pediatric Society of Central New York’s monthly meeting as it was not able to meet in person due to current social distancing guidelines. That session of nearly 100 participants was comprised of a short presentation by Shaw followed by a conversation that focused on the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and local testing availability.
Project Echo also supported an early pandemic consultation, held March 28, 2020, between physicians in Wuhan, China, and Upstate on best practices for protecting staff, treating patients and handling the pandemic.
Other sessions followed rapidly and covered COVID-related issues such as COVID epidemiology, transmissibility and protocols, adult and pediatric mental health (fear and anxiety, quarantine, burnout) the disease impact on older adults, cleaning, rapid implementation of telemedicine, returning to school and vaccine and vaccinations.
Clinicians of all kinds participated in the Project ECHO sessions from more than two dozen counties across the state. The largest gathering of participants was 267 for a session on COVID vaccines.
Another session that is expected to draw a large number of participants is the Aug. 28 session on pediatrics and COVID. If you have a suggestion about health care topics to address, contact Keefe at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 315-464-7861.